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EMS Agencies: Creating Government Accountability and Trust

By Allison G. S. Knox
Edge Contributor

It is no secret to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professionals that EMS agencies have struggled for years. The struggles involve various areas, such as recruitment and retention, wages, and municipal budgets.

Workplace shortages, for instance, are a highly serious issue for EMS. A shortage of workers means that 911 calls go unanswered and during major disasters, injured or sick people won’t be treated or transported.

Many EMS agencies are extensions of their communities, serving as agencies of the local level government system. Consequently, EMS agency leaders should be focused on providing accountability to and inspiring trust from local citizens. This mentality may help to strengthen an EMS agency’s relationship with the public and could potentially resolve the multiple issues that EMS agencies have experienced for decades.  

Creating Government Accountability and Trust

The American government system typically provides programs and services at all levels of government to its citizens. Depending on the makeup of the agency, sometimes EMS is a function of the local government.

Accountability is a particularly important aspect of this relationship between citizens and their government. Similarly, trust is a crucial aspect of government accountability. But how do we gain accountability and gain public trust from governments?

One useful strategy would be for local governments to resolve the current issues of EMS agencies – worker retention, recruitment, insufficient budgets and low wages. If EMS agencies are unable to meet community demands for reliable 911 service, this failure will not bode well for the local government and will erode public trust.

Another strategy would be going to the federal government. If the workplace shortages are as dire as many agencies throughout the United States have said, then this problem may need to be resolved at the federal level by adding new regulations.

Where emergency medical services are concerned, we need to think about how we can create systems where local governments are held accountable for their actions – or inaction – by the citizens they serve. Ultimately, it will take a lot of collaboration at the local, state and federal level to come up with a workable plan that resolves EMS agency problems.

Allison G. S. Knox teaches in the fire science and emergency management departments at American Military University and American Public University. Focusing on emergency management and emergency medical services policy, she often writes and advocates about these issues. Allison serves as the At-Large Director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and as Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees with Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences. She is also chair of Pi Gamma Mu’s Leadership Development Program. Prior to teaching, Allison worked for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in a Level One trauma center emergency department. She is an emergency medical technician and holds multiple graduate degrees.

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